— By

The Record (Hackensack N.J.)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Shawn Ortiz is a huge basketball fan, so he was definitely excited when his grandfather told him he’d bought four tickets to a Nets game and was going to bring Shawn and two of his cousins.

But the 15-year-old from the Bronx had one immediate concern.

”I wanted to know who they were playing against,” Ortiz said, grinning. ”I wanted to see a big-time player. The only Net player I know is Devin Harris.”

The tickets, it turned out, were for Wednesday night’s game against the Miami Heat, putting a smile on the faces of Ortiz, 14-year-old Raquan Norman and 12-year-old Gregory Aviles. In Section 231 of the Izod Center, the three settled into the front row alongside their grandfather, Ed Jones, ready for a great view of Heat star Dwyane Wade.

Such is the plight of New Jersey’s NBA franchise, which confirmed Thursday it will be leaving the swamps of the Meadowlands at season’s end for Newark’s Prudential Center before a permanent move to a new arena in Brooklyn.

As the season crawls to an end and a potential record-breaking mark of futility, the question remains: What brings people to see a team with a 5-50 record?

With the winning days of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter and Kenyon Martin a distant memory, Wednesday’s crowd of 12,251 might be considered a triumph.

”Back then, you were sitting at the edge of your seat. Now, you’re sitting back in your seat,” said season-ticket holder Vito Capotorto, who has come from his home in Old Tappan, N.J., to nearly every Nets game the last seven years.

Caportoto is not alone, even if he feels like it some nights in the cavernous arena.

For Rich Walters of Hillsborough, a season-ticket package that offers $10 seats in an upper corner of the arena has kept him renewing two seats for seven years. Wednesday, he sat with his grandmother, Emma Fisher.

”Obviously, the team and the crowds have gotten a lot worse over the seven years,” Walters said. ”I’m considering whether to come back. Part of me feels like I already wasted my money to come here, do I want to waste my time, too?”

The Rivera family of North Bergen — father John, mom Jessie and 3-year-old daughter Ava — didn’t spend any of their own money. They were given free tickets by a friend who has given up trying to re-sell the upper deck seats he doesn’t use. As the three sat high up in Section 208, looking around at nothing but empty seats, they planned to move down after tip-off.

Sitting in a section almost directly below them were father and son Jerry and Joe Carollo of Edison, N.J. Jerry decided to treat his Heat-fan son to the game, turning to eBay to find a deal. ”I paid $25 a ticket for $100 seats,” he said. ”I could have come tonight and paid full price at the door, but why would I do that?”

”On StubHub you can get a $3 ticket,” Walters said. ”I have friends who buy the worst ticket they can and move down anyway.”

Buddies Derek Heymer and Freddie Deyong made fun of themselves for driving from Blairstown to see the game.

”My mom is a Nets fan and has season tickets, and yes, people always ask me why,” Deyong said.

”We figured we’d spend our time counting how many people are here,” said Heymer.